Rejecting the Trauma of Whiteness

I am often reminded that I am powerless. The murder and subsequent dismissal of justice for Breonna Taylor is the latest example of the powerlessness and indifference afforded to Black womxn like me. Her murder and erasure of the crime are the results of centuries of individual choices to dehumanize and subjugate specific people to create a system that enables others. It is intentional and it works, which is why anything less than complete abolishment of policing is useless.

White supremacist patriarchal capitalism likes to keep racism both individual and systemic. Supporters of whiteness often parrot bullshit about how it’s about hate or having Black friends. While hate makes racism easier and having zero Black friends is certainly indicative of racist policies and choices, racism is both systemic and individualized methods of maintaining exploitative social hierarchies that directly benefit white people and their co-conspirators at the expense of Black people. It’s not about hate; it never was. It’s about power and that power is always at the expense of those who are excluded from it.

It sounds complicated but it’s not. In our society, power is the ability to coerce, manipulate, and threaten people into doing what you want with no consequences. Power is the ability to minimize your problems generally by making them someone else’s problems. Power is being able to engage in these acts on a large scale, violently harming the masses for your personal benefit. Power is a series of individual decisions to benefit yourself at the expense of everyone else. It’s about building individuals at the expense of communities, despite communities being the core of our survival as a species. Racism is when people use race (i.e. skin color and other physical characteristics) as the means to create a social order of people who can be used and discarded by those who do not share those characteristics. White people created racism when they decided to make those with brown skin into an underclass, a seemingly limiltess resource of human capital to be used and discarded at their discretion. Sexism is when gender determines the underclass. Ableism is when disability defines the underclass. As is size, sexuality, age, economic status, religion, etc. The possibilities are only limited by our ability to segment and classify humanity, which means they are almost limitless and these varying identities determine your place in the social hierarchy which determines how much harm you will be able to inflict without consequences. Don’t ever get it twisted — the goal is always how much you can get for yourself without any regard for who gets hurt because the violence you cause will never affect you. Making this the aspiration of multiple countries is the longest-reaching crime against humanity that whiteness has committed. Yes, I’m judging this shit and it is vile. Its supporters are vile. Its perpetrators and beneficiaries are vile. It is a monstrous ideology that guides too many people and so many are suffering unnecessarily because of it.

What I just described is Oppression 101. It sounds complicated because white people have built their entire identity from the cannibalization of societies and cultures. Colonizers consumed centuries of knowledge and tradition, sending it down the digestive tract of whiteness only to shit out meaningless, bland nonsense that is only good for fertilizing the creativity of those they continue to exploit and oppress in a desperate attempt to create an illusion of an identity. This illusion is maintained through horrific levels of violence and a complete disregard for life, including their own if necessary. Barrier after barrier is erected to maintain the lines between hierarchies. And while this is not solely the domain of whiteness, they definitely own controlling interest, as demonstrated by every country they destroyed with their bullshit. And every step of this psychological pollution is the result of individual choices that built upon themselves to create systems and frameworks that would make these choices less visible and completely convenient to opt-in to, making these tools of power rooted in oppressing identities the norm and anyone fighting or rejecting them the enemy of the system.

These invisible frameworks become social norms. Rules. Biases. They become the image of what power thinks it should look like rather than showing what really is. Media is an extension of the will of power — it creates and maintains the lies of white supremacist patriarchal capitalism and reinforces the image of the exploited and oppressed. These images become memories, the white noise of existence that programs us to expect to see what we’ve been conditioned to see rather than believing our lived reality. We take that imagery, those false memories and make them real through everyday interactions and decisions. It’s how we have directors and producers telling Black people to be “more Black” while acting, because the Black person in front of them isn’t their truth, the caricature of Blackness residing in their head is and that caricature is broadcast or streamed into millions of households, implanting the idea in people’s heads of what Blackness is supposed to look and sound like, resulting in the dismissal of everyone who doesn’t fit that ideal.

Whiteness is a culture of lies convincing itself that it’s real and violently massacring anyone who challenges their lies.

I think about this when I apply for jobs. The many interviews I’ve had where I was overqualified and questioned as though I was lying, or I was qualified enough but seen as unqualified for the jobs to which I’d applied. I’ve sat in interviews being interrogated by interviewers looking for reasons to discard my application, never provided with an opportunity to try. The newest thing is to convince applicants to perform tasks that benefit the company before pretending to consider you for the position. I’ve seen Black people forced to train white people who were less qualified than them for positions they’d been denied. I’ve seen unqualified people given jobs and ample training while I had to demonstrate I had all the skills they required before they would consider me for the position. White people are assumed to be capable while Black people are assumed to be inept and have to prove their worth only to be immediately discarded when they step outside the box that whiteness decided was theirs.

Recently, the CEO of Wells Fargo said that there aren’t a lot of Black people employed at Wells Fargo because “ the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.” Based on my experience, where I’ve had to prove I could do jobs I’d been doing for years and still be rejected, I have to ask how is that Black talent being determined? I’ve had professors ask me how I arrived at my thesis, clearly doubting my ability to formulate original thought. They questioned my work because it surprised and probably impressed them. These were professors who spent more time trying to convince me that I was out of my league rather than helping me grow my skills because it didn’t fit their mental image of Black people. These are the casual impediments to progress, the individual biases that push Black people to the wayside. I was the ONLY Black kid in the accelerated program, not because there weren’t other Black kids capable, but because all the other available spaces were given to the white kids they thought had potential. 80% of them washed out by the second year and no one was allowed to take their places. Black people are rarely if ever considered, and the only reason I got through was because any other action would definitively expose the school’s blatant racism.

You can’t change people who want to believe their lies. People who need to believe their lies because their entire identity is based on those lies. White people think they need to believe they are superior because anything else makes them and their ancestors grisly cannibalistic monsters. They think their place in society saves them, when they are prisoners to the same horrors. Granted, they experience less gruesome and overt violence, but as violence defines them, they will continue to self-cannibalize in the cycle of violence their ancestors created and from which they somewhat benefit. It’s a shit-show with a tragic ending but whiteness is rarely invested in preserving the future. It is wholly and completely focused on the now.

I’ve written a lot about whiteness in my past. Hell, I’m writing about it now. The thing I keep realizing is that I write from trauma. This is my process for untangling the fuckshit misogynoir I’ve accepted as normal so that I can step back and remind myself that I am surrounded by cruel, inhumane liars who have zero idea of the casual violence they constantly inflict. Writing allows me to step outside the trauma and see that it’s not me, it’s this fuck-all, toxic ass environment. This is how I make space for what looks like irrational behavior but is actually my honest response to people who thrive on dishonesty and bullshit. It lets me tell myself that whiteness is curated violence rebranded as normalcy and that my inability to coexist peacefully in that environment is not a character flaw but instead is a painful clarity that actually harms me less than believing the nonsense I’ve been conditioned to think. So, while I write about my interactions with whiteness, it is not because I want to center whiteness in my life. It’s because whiteness consistently sucks up all the air in the room, leaving the rest of us suffocating in its existence and to detach myself from that genocide, I have to reject what I’ve been accustomed to think and center myself in my life, opinions, and interactions. Divesting from whiteness, especially while living in a household with a white spouse is complicated as fuck but the biggest takeaway is that I am and continue to be valid, informed, and trustworthy. I’ve learned that once I clear away a lot of the noise and nonsense that tries to drown out my existence, I know what the fuck I’m talking about. It’s a lot to manage and while I wish I didn’t have to deal with this shit, I’m thankful that I’m getting better at removing myself from the eye of that misogynoirist fuckshit hurricane. My emotional well-being requires that I do so.

White violence is my norm and I no longer want it to be. I want to process this trauma so that I can get to a place where I write from joy. This is an intentional shift, but the violence is unceasing and the brutality is soul-crushing. My goal is to divest from this violence. To eject from this harm. The rules of whiteness say that I am meant to be oppressed but I refuse to accept that as my fate. I may die trying to reject it, but I am making my intentions clear — I am no one’s underclass. I am no one’s willing tool. I am fighting for the continued liberation of my spirt because I deserve that in this lifetime. I deserve to write and create from joy and I am going to fight to make that my reality. I deserve that space. The system isn’t going to do it for me; it’s designed to ensure I never get there. Yet, every day I get closer and I’m not giving up that dream. The american dream was never meant for me and that’s okay because the dreams and aspirations of liars, thieves, and murders are a rot on the soul to which I never hope to aspire.

Originally published at https://talynnkel.com on September 29, 2020.

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